Frank Bello, David Ellefson + Chris Broderick Talk Metal Allegiance
On Nov. 12, Megadeth bassist David Ellefson celebrated his 50th birthday. To celebrate, some of the boys from metal's biggest all-star outfit, Metal Allegiance, got together for a gig at the Music Zoo in Roslyn, N.Y. Before the show, we got into an empty office space with Ellefson, Anthrax bassist Frank Bello and then-Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick for an exclusive chat.
Sitting down with the three thrash titans, the environment couldn't have been more friendly. Like true buddies and metal brethren, the trio tossed around jokes and jabs while speaking with ornate passion about all things music. In our exclusive interview, Bello, Broderick and Ellefson talk about Metal Allegiance, jamming on the Motorboat Cruise, classics from each others' catalogs they'd love to perform live, the musicians they look up to and much more.
Enjoy our three-on-one chat with Frank Bello, David Ellefson and Chris Broderick below!
So Dave, how do you feel turning 50? Is this the perfect way to celebrate?
David Ellefson: I keep saying, I don't feel a day over 49. [Laughs] And this is the perfect way to celebrate. I cleared it with my wife first and she knows me well enough -- she knows good enough that if it's a music related thing the answer is always "yes." She knows I get cranky and ornery. So I get to hang out with all my buddies doing what I love to do, which is playing a bunch of tunes, hanging out and just being dudes.
Metal Allegiance -- it's basically Metal Masters with a new name. Is there a real difference?
Chris Broderick: You can't mention that name anymore. [Laughs]
Frank Bello: [Laughs] It's the same boys; the same guys. It's still the same core of people doing it, which is still fun, man. Chris has taken over the virtuoso kind of vibe, it's kind of great.
CB: Thanks man.
DE: I think Chris is going to be the musical director on the upcoming one at House of Blues.
FB: It's amazing how many songs he's actually able to play. I saw the list!
DE: So now he gets to tell us all what to do. [Laughs] Hell hath no fury like Broderick as the MD.
FB: The line is, 'Have you talked to Chris?'
You have so many interesting musicians; so many interesting characters who are doing this thing on and off. Who is the most intense person to play with, to jam with, to practice with, organization - all that stuff?
CB: All of us come into this like it's a jam. It's almost a relief from the normal, regimented music structure I think we face in our own bands. It's like, I get to jam with Frank and he's not gonna bust my balls about it.
FB: We go in light and we play heavy. It's fun, man. It's just getting together and getting paid for it. Are we getting paid? Are you guys getting paid?
FB: Well, I got free food. That was my pay.
DE: You know what I realized? We're all the same kids with the same record collection, just from different neighborhoods. We're all brothers from another mother, we really are. Especially on the Motorboat -- we all have the same, "Dude! I know that one!" Then, [Alex] Skolnick knows the solo and then Chris knows this part, then you can throw that in. It's pretty mindless, because you don't really have to think about it. You just show up and just start throwing ideas out and all of a sudden you're jamming.
FB: These songs are in you, they're in all of us already. All of a sudden you start playing in a room on the boat, remember? We were on the boat and we just started going back and forth. Other songs kept coming out, which was great.
DE: My favorite moment was we were sitting upstairs having dinner; we had already done the first show and we're sitting across from Alex Skolnick and we went, "How come you're not playing with us? He's like, "No one asked me!" "Well, dude, you want to play? He goes, "Yeah!" "What do you know? Do you know some Van Halen?" He's like, "Yeah! I know all the first through sixth albums!" So then we got together, literally an hour before we walked on stage and we had side one of the first Van Halen record done. He's like, shredding 'Eruption' and we're going, "F--k!" It was just one of those moments and I think the first time when we came in and started doing this, Chris shows up and knows all this Pantera all this Slayer -- it was fun for me because I stand 10 feet from Chris every day. I know how good he is. The day I walked in and came back into Megadeth, Dave told me, "Dude, this guy just has everyone nailed to a tee."
When we pulled Chris out of a band environment into this group of guys, Chris was maybe, in some ways, not as entrenched into it. We hadn't all grown up in the same band. Me and Frank did. I just remembered standing back and everybody's backstage going, "Holy s--t! Broderick is a beast! That guy knows everything!" Watching Phil [Anselmo] and all these guys just going [in a Phil Anselmo voice] "F--kin' Broderick man." It was a happy moment for me, to see Chris get his due.
FB: And he deserves it. I don't think he gets enough of that; the notoriety. It's the truth! People are just starting to realize how great you are.
DE: And Alex got that on the boat when all of a sudden, literally an hour before, we're all sitting around going, "Geez, dude!" Then Frank will jump up. The fun thing about it is we'll be jamming something and the next thing you know, Frank runs out on stage and grabs the mic and we're doing harmonies. It's fun to sing. In Megadeth we have backing vocals and it's good, we've got some layers. Even the 'Peace Sells' harmony at the end of the tune; I remember when we were writing the song in the jam room in 1986. For me, I naturally go for the Michael Anthony high harmony. I grew up in cover bands, singing all those parts as a kid. I was the kid with the highest voice. I got the lowest voice but the highest singing voice. Maybe at 50 I can't hit it as good, but anyway, yesterday when I was 49, I could hit it really good.
CB: I heard a difference.
I haven't seen a set list, but I'd imagine you're playing Anthrax and Megadeth songs...
DE: Not that many.
FB: This upcoming House of Blues.
CB: That would be the first time we ever considered doing a Megadeth song. I know that I wanted to do some Anthrax with you on Metal Mast… uh, the thing we shall not name. [Everyone laughs] I think we need some more.
FB: Whatever! I'm easy. Whatever works.
CB: We tend to stick more with our influences.
Dave and Chris, if you guys were going to play one Anthrax song, which one would you pick?
DE: I just learned 'Indians' and 'Caught in a Mosh.' In fact, for this Metal All-Stars tour, I actually FaceTimed Frank and went, "Dude I gotta get your parts man. Help me out here." He's literally in his attic digging around for s--t and he goes, "Well I don't know, I've got some basses here. So he pulls a bass open out of a bag and he starts playing. Then I'm like, "Wait! That part right there, the bridge right there - what is that?" He's sitting up there walking me through it and I'm filming him with my Flip cam. I'm filming our FaceTime conversation so I can refer back to it. It helped me learned the part, because now the tab makes more sense.
FB: I love that. I remember that, I was in my attic and he just happened to FaceTime me. I had basses everywhere in my attic, I just grabbed one and jammed.
DE: So, now I know 'Indians.' From that moment, now I actually have a deeper repertoire. And I know 'Got the Time.'
FB: You guys can do that song! How great would that be?
DE: I told them you should play bass on 'Peace Sells.' You play 'Peace Sells' and I"ll play 'Indians.' I'll show you the part in my attic.
FB: You go to your attic, I want to do it the right way. That's important to me.
Frank, if you could cover a Megadeth song, which one would you pick?
FB: 'Peace Sells'! There you go!
Last question: As a musician, no matter how big you get or how celebrated you are, there's always going to be those people you look up to and think, "I'll never be as good as that person." To you, who are those people?
CB: For me, personally, it'd definitely be Jason Becker (Cacophony). He's got ALS but he's probably one of the most positive and inspiring people you'll ever meet. He still writes and composes with his eyes. It's insane. If you heard his guitar work, let alone his compositions… I don't even know why I'm still playing.
FB: That's the whole game; it's all inspiration. I want to be inspired. You should never be comfortable, because you get lazy and lethargic. F--k that. I want to keep learning. Chris, I mean, look at him, he's a student to this day of guitar. As great as he is, he's still a student. I appreciate that. I love that has that. For me, I love watching Geddy Lee (Rush) -- the same guys I still watch and get inspired by. I'm never going to be happy, and I don't want to be.
CB: You should be happy.
FB: I want the itch, I have the itch that I want to get better. I want to grow.
DE: It's funny, a lot of these guys -- now I know how they do what they do. Geddy Lee seems so complicated and now I know what it is. In form, it's pretty simple. The how he does it and the ease of how he does it is a whole other thing -- he sings and does it. His licks actually aren't that complicated, now knowing it's a pentatonic riff over it.
When I grew up, KISS and Cheap Trick were my Beatles. Now knowing that they say, "Hey we took this from the Beatles," I go back and listen to the Beatles' records. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, now I see." Knowing that Heart and Rush formed looking back on Led Zeppelin, you listen to some Led Zeppelin records and go, "Oh, that's how they did this." I can hear the Led Zeppelin influence in those early Heart records and I can hear it especially in the first couple of Rush records. I go to some of these bass player events and I hear guys like Victor Wooten, who to me is a feel. To me it's the feel, it isn't the lick. To me, Stu Hamm and Victor Wooten are the two bass players that I hang with a lot at these events that I wouldn't even freakin' attempt to even try to play what they play.
Thanks to Frank Bello, David Ellefson and Chris Broderick for their time. Metal Allegiance will play at the Anaheim, Calif. House of Blues on Jan. 21 and on board the 2015 ShipRocked cruise. For all your Metal Allegiance info, click here.